October 29, 2008

Ethanol beats gas in environmental, economic profiles

At a news conference in Illinois Tuesday, the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) announced the results of two studies that conclude production of the biofuel ethanol leaves a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline and has substantial room for growth - without affecting corn supply to the food and feed sectors.

Rob Elliott, vice president of ICGA said the studies indicate that modern ethanol plants have a superior carbon footprint and net energy benefit when compared to gasoline refineries and provide "compelling data that ethanol production can grow substantially at no risk to food supplies."

The studies' authors were Ross Korves, economic policy analyst at ProExporter Network, and Dr. Steffen Mueller, principal research economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Energy Resources Center.

Mueller examined the global warming and land use impact of corn ethanol produced at the Illinois River Energy ethanol plant, a modern, natural gas fueled facility, on a full life-cycle basis. "We found conclusively that the global warming impact of the modern ethanol plant is 40 percent lower than gasoline. This is a sizable reduction from numbers currently being used by public agencies and in the public debate. The study also documents the significant net energy benefits of ethanol when compared to gasoline," he said.

For more information on this study, and to download it, click here.

The Korves study, broader in scope, analyzed the consequences of a technology-driven revolution that is occurring throughout America agriculture which would see average corn production increase from 155 bushels an acre today to 289 bushels over the next two decades. The study suggests that sufficient amounts of corn will be available to increase ethanol production from the current level of 7.1 billion gallons last year to 33 billion gallons by 2030 with current technology. The study also factors in increased future demand for corn from both export and livestock (feed) sectors.

Korves also looked at the environmental impact of ethanol production, predicting that the global warming impact of the average ethanol plant would decline dramatically through increased efficiencies in coming years. ICGA reported the reduction was significant enough that corn ethanol could be categorized as an advanced biofuel based on the performance requirements in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

For more information on this study, and to download it, click here.

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